Thursday, 30 August 2012

Would you like to marry me?

The Smiths are one of those bands I shouldn't really like very much, since they brought an effective end to early-eighties synth-pop and with their proto-Britpop guitars and attitude made electronic-based bands seem a tad sillly.
That said, there's no doubting that they churned out some fine music in their prime and Morrisey and his mate were an excellent songwriting couple, who hit the right nail on the right head at the right time. Here's a TOTP performance from exactly 28 years ago with one of their better, and shorter, pop tunes which was storming up the charts back then. Love the TOTP graphics in the chart rundown too...soooo 1984. Oh and Richard Skinner's shirt...well....

Credit to Simon at On This TOTP Day.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Cover job

how many of your favourite record covers can you spot, readers?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Summer Hits

Not much exciting news in the heady world of Smash Hits*-pop in the summer of 82, although this John Taylor cover , full colour Nick-pic and an interview with Duran Duran breaking the U.S. will have pleased many.
But fear not. Apparently in September there will be bringing exciting new albums from the likes of Simple Minds, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and many many more!

.. for the record the number one single was Dexy Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen, which has proved to be a 'classic' of the 80s, with their Too-Rye-Aye album also doing well at no. 2. Sadly, Fun Boy Three's attempt at the summer market fared less well peaking at number 18.

* thanks, as ever, to Brian's tireless Smash Hits archive published fortnightly on flickr.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Oldfield-fest 1 / Platinum & QE2 (2012 deluxe editions)

There seems to have been another Mike Oldfield renaissance of late, mostly due to his starring role in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony at the end of last month, in which our Michael churned out a new Olympics-opening-ceremony version of Tubular Bells, even making the thing 'swing' ...

Aside from that however Oldfield continues the remaster-masterplan, begun with the TB remaster/re-issue in 2009, continuing with Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn (2010) and Incantations (2011), with deluxe editions of Platinum, originally released in 1979, and QE2 from 1980. Both releases see a shift forward in Oldfield's work, moving away from the folk/prog musical style of yore over to more lightweight, and dare we say it, 'radio-friendly' shorter pieces which would also also put the artist in good stead with Virgin Records in the lucrative singles market.

Platinum is a breath of fresh air and a joy to listen to even today. Side one, divided into four parts, will never leave the listener bored and was obviously intended to appeal to a wider audience. You can even dance to it. For the first time, Oldfield abandons the "album name part one, part two, etc". formula, giving each of the four tracks a name and a life of its own, culminating in a re-working of Philip Glass' North Star. Side two is split into four separate "songs" (a breakthrough for Oldfield) including (shock!) properly sung lyrics on the dreamy 'Into Wonderland' and a splendid cover version of Gershwins' 'I Got Rhythm' both gorgeously sung by Wendy Roberts. (The original track 'Sally' was swiftly removed from the album after initail copies were released apparently at the behest of Richard Branson's who thought it was rubbish). The raucous track 'Punkadiddle' can only be described as punk-meets-folk dancing with a restrained "Oi!" occasionally punctuating the jolly tune,which recalls Oldfield's roots. The remaster also offers up a live studio version of Platinum (the track), a new mix of North Star and Blue Peter, which Oldfield recorded for the kids show of the same name around the same time as the Platinum album. A second disc on the deluxe version features nine tracks recorded live in Wembley Arena in 1980, which make for an interesting documentation of Oldfield's new found live prowess, his shy Tubular Bells live debut now very much behind him.
But speaking of 'live' one wonders why Oldfield has 'skipped' re-issuing 1979's live album Exposed, (originally issued before Platinum). No re-master for that one, more's the pity.

QE2 takes the 'easy-listening' and indeed radio-friendly Oldfield a few steps further with a series of shorter stand-alone tracks, although without any 'proper' singing this time. The album even featured two cover versions: Abba's Arrival and The Shadows' Wonderful Land, both issued as singles with modest chart results. There's a lighter, more sparse production even compared to Platinum, which however is not always so well suited to Oldfield's ply-instrumental style, although an extensive use of electronics (synths, drum machines, vocoders etc.) is very much starte-of-the-art and is usually put to good effect. OK, Gary Numan it ain't but it's clear that Oldfield wasn't just investing his money in guitar strings at this point.
The deluxe re-issue is again complemented with a couple of rare tracks, available in digital formats for the first time, as well as a new version of Sheba called Shiva. Again, a live bonus disc is included in the deluxe, this one recorded in Essen, April 1981.

Both lbums available from Universal Music or usual outlets.

Oldfield-fest to be continued....